Burton made the rest of League One sit up and take notice with a ruthless display at Port Vale last weekend but, in truth, it was a break from the norm of how they’ve gone about their business under Nigel Clough. Indeed, given their 4-0 victory came courtesy of just five efforts on target, you could even argue the outcome was just a statistical anomaly.
That’s not to take anything away from the Brewers or their manager, both of whom are very conscious of the psychology involved with sitting on a cushion at top of the table and have been facing up to the challenge with admirable composure. Having won 17 games by the odd goal this term, they won’t suddenly be getting carried with the bigger margin.
No fewer than 11 of their 23 victories this term have been achieved by a solitary strike and though odds of 11/2 about Burton to win 1-0 against a team third from bottom of the table might seem a tad skinny, we should trust in Clough to insist upon the necessary level of uncertainty avoidance. My ratings make it roughly a 9/2 shot.
Oldham were on the wrong side of a five-goal thriller against local rivals Rochdale last time out but that was also a change from the standards they’ve been setting under John Sheridan. In 12 matches since the straight-talking Mancunian returned to Boundary Park, six have finished under 1.5 goals, while a further two were 1-1 having been goalless with an hour gone.
As well as rectifying pressing issues quickly, Sheridan also has a reputation for subjecting promotion-chasing teams to difficult matches whatever division he’s operating in. Already in this second stint with Latics, Wigan have been held at the DW Stadium (0-0) and Gillingham have been beaten (2-1) when they headed north.
But ultimately, Oldham will be weaker for the absences of Burton loanees Matty Palmer and Timmy Thiele, and they lack the goal threat to believe they will trouble the scoresheet against a team that has notched 17 clean sheets. Curtis Main leads the line for the visitors and will run himself into the ground but nine goals in 61 appearances at League One level tells its own story.
Burton’s attacking threat has diminished slightly since the January sale of Nasser El Khayati to QPR, although fellow wide men Lucas Akins and Mark Duffy have now drawn level with Dutchman on eight goals after netting at Vale Park, while striker Stuart Beavon remains one adrift with seven. And it’s this sharing around of responsibility that invariably enables the Brewers to nick one from somewhere when they need it most.
Duffy is the one to keep an eye on at the moment. Having turned 30 and out of contract with parent club Birmingham in the summer, a televised game over the Easter weekend represents an excellent opportunity for him to impress a wider audience. With three times in his last two matches, he certainly appears to be in the mood at the moment. Split a point between the first and last goalscorer options at 7/1.
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